What’s The Difference Between SanDisk Ultra Vs Extreme?

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Not every memory card is created equal, and the main difference between SanDisk Ultra and Extreme is the video recording capabilities.

The SanDisk Extreme records up to 4K video, whereas the SanDisk Ultra performs best with 1080p HD video. Apart from video recording, the cards also differ in size options and write speeds. The SanDisk Extreme offers higher capacity sizes, up to 1TB, and higher write speeds compared to the Ultra.

While these are the main differences, there are a lot more aspects to consider when choosing the right memory card for your needs. Faster and larger is not always better when selecting a memory card.

Let’s break down all the differences between SanDisk Ultra and Extreme to help you decide which is best for you.

What Is SanDisk Ultra?

SanDisk Ultra
Write SpeedMinimum speed of 10mb/s
Read SpeedUp to 120mb/s
Capacity RangeStandard SD card ranges between 32GB and 512GB. MicroSD version ranges between 16GB and 512GB.
Best Used ForEntry-level cameras, smartphones, tablets, point-and-shoot cameras, and gaming devices

SanDisk Ultra is a memory card meant for point and shoots rather than professional-level DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. These cards are capable of 120mb/s transfer speeds and range in capacity from 32GB to 512GB. Although they can handle most photo files, they can only support 1080p video recording.

Since this SD card doesn’t have the greatest speeds, it doesn’t work well for a mid-range to professional-level camera. However, it can work well for smartphones, tablets, or point-and-shoot cameras.

SanDisk Ultra cards can be found as standard SD cards or as MicroSD cards, making them widely compatible. The standard SD model comes in 5 storage capacities of 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB.

Meanwhile, the Ultra MicroSD cards come with slightly more storage options from 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 200GB, 256GB, 400GB, and 512GB.

Since the MicroSD models are meant for a wider range of devices, from cameras to smartphones and gaming, that’s why there are more storage options. However, if you aren’t sure which size memory card is right for you, check out this post to help you decide.

What Is SanDisk Extreme?

SanDisk Extreme
Write SpeedMinimum speed of 30mb/s
Read SpeedUp to 150mb/s
Capacity RangeStandard SD card ranges between 16GB and 256GB. MicroSD version ranges between 32GB and 1TB.
Best Used Formid- to professional-level cameras, action cameras, gaming devices, and smartphones

SanDisk Extreme is the big brother to SanDisk Ultra. With improved read/write speeds and 4K video support, it offers a significant advantage over the Ultra. These cards are designed for intermediate to professional-level cameras in both photo and video.

This SD card is meant for dealing with larger files in less time. Whether you’re shooting burst photos in RAW or getting 4K video clips, the SanDisk Extreme cards can handle it all.

SanDisk Extreme cards are available as both standard SD and MicroSD, making them compatible with DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, action cameras, phones, and gaming devices.

In terms of file capacity, there are 5 options for the SD models that range from 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.

On the MicroSD Extreme cards, there 7 capacity options ranging from 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 400GB, 512GB, 1TB.

Within the SanDisk Extreme family, there is a slightly better card option called the SanDisk Extreme Pro. These cards offer further upgrades in reading and writing speeds, card capacity, and video recording capabilities. Although they come with a higher price tag, they’re a good idea for professional shooters.

Comparing SanDisk Ultra Vs. SanDisk Extreme

If you’re looking for your next memory card, you don’t need to feel stuck between choosing Ultra or Extreme. Let’s compare these two cards together across the most important card specs to make the choice easy.

SanDisk UltraSanDisk Extreme
Read SpeedUp to 120mb/sUp to 150mb/s
Bus SpeedUHS-1UHS-1
UHS SpeedU1 – Transfer speed up to 10mb/sU3 – Transfer speed up to 30mb/s
Speed ClassC10 – Minimum of 10mb/sC10 – Minimum of 10mb/s
Storage Capacity Options32GB to 512GB16GB to 256GB
Card TypeSDHC with FAT32 (32GB) and SDXC with exFAT (64GB and higher)SDHC with FAT32 (16GB and 32GB) and SDXC with exFAT (64GB and higher)
Video Speed ClassC10 – 10mb/sV30 – 30mb/s
Cost$7.50 to $53.95$9.11 to $37.99

– Read/Write Speeds

The reading and writing speeds dictate how fast your memory card can intake data from your device, as well as send data to the device.

For example, if you have a slow read speed, you will experience a delay when playing back photos or videos. There could be a buffer period between when you take a photo and when it’s saved to your card with a slower writing speed.

In the world of memory cards, speed capabilities are called bus speeds or UHS-Class ratings. The bus speed is what decides how quickly a memory card can import and export data from the device.

Bus Speed

Both the SanDisk Ultra and SanDisk Extreme cards are UHS-1. This rating means that both cards only use a single row of pins to control the inflow and outflow of data.

With only one row of pins, if you are downloading something to the card, you cannot view other stored media until the download is complete. Think of it as a single-lane road. Only one direction of traffic is able to travel at a time.

Besides only having a single row of pins, UHS-1 cards are only rated to transfer data to the card at 104mb/s. However, another aspect to take into account with card speed is called the UHS class.

UHS Class

The speed class controls how much data a card can continually transfer. With a higher sustained writing speed, the card will inevitably perform better when shooting video or burst photos.

The SanDisk Ultra has a speed class rating of U1, noted by the U with the 1 inside. This means that the card can sustain a transfer speed of up to 10MB/S.

Compare that to the SanDisk Extreme with a speed class of U3; it’s 3x faster at transferring data than the Ultra. Being able to sustain transfer speeds up to 30MB/S, the Extreme is an obvious choice in terms of speed capabilities.

A 20MB per second difference may not seem like much on paper, but while you’re shooting, it makes a huge difference. This would result in less buffering when shooting burst photos and more options on 4K video recording formats.

Speed Class

The speed class of a card is indicated by the C on the card. In the case of SanDisk Ultra and Extreme cards, both have a speed class of C10.

In simple terms, the speed class is meant to show the minimum write speed of the card. With a C10 speed class, that means both the Ultra and Extreme have a minimum write speed of 10MB/S.

Besides the minimum write speed, certain speed classes may be required for different devices. Since the C10 speed class is the highest rating, both of these cards will be compatible with most modern devices.

Despite a few similarities between the Ultra vs. Extreme, the significant speed advantages are too hard to overlook in this category. That’s why the SanDisk Extreme is the clear winner.

Winner: SanDisk Extreme

– Storage Capacity Options

When you’re choosing a memory card, it’s important to get the right capacity. Especially if you’re shooting video, you don’t want to run out of room right before you capture the perfect clip!

Both the SanDisk Ultra and SanDisk Extreme SD cards are comparable in capacity options. The Ultra comes in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB, while the Extreme comes in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB, and the MicroSD version of the Extreme card goes up to 1TB.

With only one other capacity option with Extreme’s, there isn’t that big of a difference between the two. In that sense, both of these cards are very comparable to one another.

Winner: Tie

– Card Type

Both the SanDisk Ultra and Extreme are SDXC (Secure Digital Extreme Capacity) cards, which means they utilize exFAT storage formats. ExFAT simply means that the cards have a capacity greater than 32GB and can store any size files.

With that said, the SanDisk Ultra 32GB model and the SanDisk Extreme 16GB and 32GB are SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity), which uses a FAT32 format instead.

The downside to FAT32 is that it has a maximum single file storage of 4GB. That means, theoretically, you wouldn’t be able to store a single 4GB video clip on this card.

However, if you planned on shooting video, it’s unlikely that you’d use either of these capacity ranges anyway.

Winner: Tie

– Video Speed Class

Comparing the SanDisk Ultra vs. Extreme, you’ll notice that the Extreme cards say “V30” while the Ultra cards don’t have anything of the sort. This V represents what’s known as Video Speed Class and was first introduced by the SD association to indicate sequential writing speeds.

The number beside the V represents the MB per second the card can record. Since the SanDisk Extreme card is rated as V30, that means it can sequentially write at 30MB/S.

To put that in perspective, V30 is more than enough to record 4K video 4:2:2 on just about any DSLR or mirrorless camera.

On the SanDisk Ultra cards, there is no video class rating indicated. Despite not having a video class rating, that means you have to go off the speed class, which in this case is C10.

That means the SanDisk Ultra cards are only able to record Full HD 1080p video at 10mb/s.

If you’re looking to record anything of a higher resolution or bit-rate, 10mb/s just isn’t going to cut it. Once again, the SanDisk Extreme card takes the cake.

Winner: SanDisk Extreme

– Cost

All specs aside, the one thing that can change your decision when buying a memory card is the price. Since the Ultra and Extreme are two different models, there is a slight price difference. Especially since the Extreme offers a wide array of clear advantages.

Starting with the SanDisk Ultra, the lowest capacity SD card at 32GB, costs $7.50 at the time of writing this post. At the higher end of things, the 512GB option costs $53.95.

With the SanDisk Extreme, you end up paying a little bit more. For the 32GB model of the Extreme, you’re looking at $9.11. Going up in capacity to the 256GB version, it costs $37.99.

The price difference between these two cards is justified by the many advantages offered by the SanDisk Extreme. However, based solely on price, the SanDisk Ultra is a little more appealing.

Winner: SanDisk Ultra

Should You Buy SanDisk Ultra Or Extreme?

If you’re solely shooting photos, the SanDisk Ultra SD card is a valid option. However, if you want better speed performance while shooting in burst mode or capturing 4K video, then the SanDisk Extreme SD card should be your choice.

If it were me, I would choose to go with the better of the two models, aka the SanDisk Extreme. Since memory cards are something that will last you for years and through multiple cameras, you might as well get one that’s most capable.

With faster writing speeds and reduced buffer time, using SanDisk Extreme cards offers a huge difference compared to Ultras. As 4K video becomes more commonplace, even in compact cameras, the Extreme card gives you room to grow.

However, if you know you will only be taking photos or just need an SD card for a device other than a camera, then the SanDisk Ultra is a viable option. Although it doesn’t support 4K video recording, it does allow you to save just about all other data you need.

Especially if you’re looking for a card for your phone, tablet, or mobile gaming device, the SanDisk Ultra is more cost-effective.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you intend to shoot. If you’re a photographer and are looking to improve your work without limitations, then definitely go with the SanDisk Extreme cards.

But if you’re more of a casual shooter or just need an SD card for basic file storage, then the SanDisk Ultra cards are a cheaper alternative.

Recommended SanDisk Cards For Photo & Video

1. SanDisk Extreme Pro 170MB/S SD Card

SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Card Specs:

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: V30 U3
  • Continuous Shot Speed: 90MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 170MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Capacity Options: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

If you’re looking for the ultimate SanDisk SD card, then the Extreme Pro is your best option. Upgrading from the SanDisk Extreme card, the Extreme Pro takes things to another level with 170mb/s transfer speeds. Whether you’re shooting burst photos or 4K video, this card will have the least amount of lag or buffer periods.

I’ve personally used this card for several years with my Panasonic GH5 and have never had an issue with it. Shooting 4K video every day over multi-day shoots, this card has never let me down. 

Although this card costs slightly more than the SanDisk Extreme cards, it’s well worth it for any videographer. These cards cater to those who need to shoot lots of video without the worry of the card failing. However, for photographers, the extra price may not be worthwhile.

The SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Card is best for those who constantly shoot 4K video, especially for clients.

Check Price Online

2. SanDisk Extreme 150MB/S SD Card

SanDisk Extreme SD Card Specs:

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: V30 U3
  • Continuous Shot Speed: 70MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 150MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Capacity Options: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

The SanDisk Extreme SD Card is a well-rounded card for shooting both photos and video. Its quick read and write speeds let you deal with your files without too much lag. Better yet, it can easily record 4K video, even at higher bit rates, to help with color grading later on.

I’ve used this card mostly in my photography business and don’t have much to complain about. It captures burst images without any buffer periods and functions well even after a long day of shooting.

This card is a good middle-ground option for those who are interested in getting the best of both worlds. Rather than spending more money on the Extreme Pro, the SanDisk Extreme SD card will get the job done for all your photography and 4K video needs.

The SanDisk Extreme SD Card is best for those who mainly take photos but want 4K video recording options.

Check Price Online

3. SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSD

SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSD Card Specs:

  • Card Type: Micro SDXC UHS-1
  • App Performance: A2
  • Continuous Shot Speed: 90MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 170MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Capacity Options: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 400GB

For smartphones, tablets, or action cameras, the SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSD gives you top-notch performance in a compact size. This card boasts an impressive 170mb/s transfer speed, matching it to the standard SD model of this card. 

Whether you’re looking to take photos, record videos, or store data from your phone or tablet, this card has your back. Plus, it’s one of the best-performing microSD cards available.

The SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSD is best for compact cameras or smartphones that need lightning-fast performance.

Check Price Online

4. SanDisk Ultra 120MB/S SD Card

SanDisk Ultra SD Card Specs:

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: U1
  • Continuous Shot Speed: N/A
  • Transfer Speed: 120MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: NO
  • Capacity Options: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

The SanDisk Ultra SD card is ideal for point-and-shoot cameras or entry-level DSLRs. Although it’s not capable of recording 4K video, it’s enough to get the job done for most beginners. Better yet, it’s significantly cheaper than some other options on this list.

Despite not being able to record 4K, it’s still capable of handling full HD 1080p video, as well as any photos you throw at it. The only issue you might face is a buffer period when taking a long series of burst photos. However, if you never use a continuous shutter, you won’t even notice.

The SanDisk Ultra SD Card is best for beginner or casual photographers with point-and-shoot cameras.

Check Price Online

5. SanDisk Extreme MicroSD

SanDisk Extreme MicroSD Card Specs:

  • Card Type: Micro SDXC UHS-1
  • Continuous Shot Speed: 60MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 90MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Capacity Options: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB

The SanDisk Extreme MicroSD is a great memory card option for smartphones and action cameras, particularly GoPro’s. With write speeds of 60MB/S and read speeds of 90MB/S, this card is a worthy option at a reasonable price.

Whether you’re looking to take photos or record 4K video, this card will get it done. Since it can record continuously at 30MB/S, it won’t have any trouble with longer action shots on your GoPro. 

The SanDisk Extreme MicroSD is best for action cameras that record 4K video.

Check Price Online

Now you have a better idea of the differences between SanDisk Ultra and SanDisk Extreme memory cards. Depending on your needs and whether you shoot more photos or videos, the right choice will change. If you aren’t sure which to choose, I’d suggest going with the SanDisk Extreme SD Card since it gives you more room to grow!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What’s The Fastest SanDisk SD Card?

The fastest SanDisk SD card currently available is the SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-II SD card, boasting a blazing 300mb/s transfer speed.

Is SanDisk Ultra Good For 4k?

No, SanDisk Ultra cards are not rated for shooting 4K video. Instead, they’re only capable of capturing Full HD 1080p video recordings. If you need an SD card that can record 4K, then consider the SanDisk Extreme or SanDisk Extreme Pro cards instead.

Is SanDisk Ultra Good?

SanDisk Ultra is a capable card for capturing photos and HD video. Although it doesn’t have the fastest reading and writing speeds, it offers enough for point-and-shoot cameras or entry-level DSLRs.

Is SanDisk A Good Brand?

SanDisk is one of the leading SD card and external drive manufacturers in the world. With dozens of leading products in the photo and video industry, they’re one of the most trustworthy memory card manufacturers around. Couple that with a 7+ year warranty on their products (lifetime on select models), and you can rest easy knowing you’re buying a trusted product.

Happy Shooting!

– Brendan 🙂

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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